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New Interdisciplinary Autism Clinic provides speech pathology, psychology resources

The+new+Interdisciplinary+Autism+Center+is+the+first+of+its+kind+in+Milwaukee.+
The new Interdisciplinary Autism Center is the first of its kind in Milwaukee.

The new Interdisciplinary Autism Center is the first of its kind in Milwaukee.

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

The new Interdisciplinary Autism Center is the first of its kind in Milwaukee.

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A newly opened Marquette autism clinic has begun its work across departments to provide holistic treatment to Milwaukee citizens.

The first of its kind on campus, the multi-departmental Interdisciplinary Autism Clinic provides clients with resources from the psychology and speech pathology and audiology departments. The clinic opened last Monday.

Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, associate professor of psychology and co-director of the IAC, said that spending time visiting the laundry list of healthcare professionals needed to provide resources for people affected by autism can be difficult.

“To be able to say, ‘It’s all here. When you come to us, we provide’ — I think we’ll have a really big impact because I don’t think there’s really another clinic like that,” Van Hecke said.

Available autism resources at Marquette have not always looked this optimistic. Before the IAC opened, the psychology department ran its own autism clinic. That clinic lacked the appropriate number of graduate level students to service clients because the department had to pay for students’ work through its own limited funds.

“It got to the point where we were telling families, ‘At the current rate of us taking in people, we won’t be able to see you in ten years,'” Van Hecke said. “‘Do you want us to keep your name on the list for ten years?’ That’s how bad it was. And they still said yes.”

Alana McVey, a third year clinical psychology graduate student and a session leader at the IAC, worked in the old clinic as well.

“When it was just the Marquette Autism Clinic, we had the psychological perspective, which was awesome and very interesting, but now that we have this interdisciplinary perspective it’s just another level of understanding,” McVey said.

With added graduate students from the speech pathology and audiology department, the clinic has been able to expand its Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, a social skills intervention program for clients aged 11-28 and their families. The IAC staff reached out to clients on the old clinic’s PEERS waiting list.

The IAC team plans to serve approximately 40 families through PEERS this academic year, which, according to Van Hecke, is three to four times the number of people that previously participated in PEERS in years prior. Another goal is to create a website and establish a clinic space of their own, as they currently share a space with the Marquette Speech and Hearing Clinic.

The benefits of having the IAC for student clinicians were also quickly apparent: “To work with psychology, which is what is best practice when working with individuals with autism in particular … it’s what (students) will be doing their whole careers,” said Wendy Krueger, clinical assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology and co-director of the IAC.

The IAC will be able to diagnose individuals with autism, which is something that Krueger and Van Hecke said is needed in the Milwaukee area. For adults in particular, Marquette is the only location in Milwaukee to get an autism diagnosis, Van Hecke said.

“You can intervene with an adult and they can do really well,” Van Hecke said. “You can change their life.”

To further change the lives of individuals affected by autism, Krueger and Van Hecke said that the IAC hopes to involve the College of Education in counseling, diagnostics and possibly teaching and outreach at the clinic.

“It is a great success story in figuring it out that we can’t do it alone,” Van Hecke said. “That the way to really get this to grow is to team up.”

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